Saturday is Leap Day, that delightful extra 24 hours that comes around every four years.* The purpose is to keep the (Gregorian) calendar aligned with the duration of the earth’s revolution around the sun. It’s a quadrennial reminder of the differences between human-demarcated time and natural time. Hours are man-made. Years are natural (as long as you recognize that they are about 365.25 days long…); weeks are man-made, and so forth.
So, theoretically, we have extra time this year. Many folks lament that “if only I had more time…” and this year we do!
But few people actually spend the extra 24 hours of leap years in particularly memorable ways. That’s because leap days tend to be spent within the forms of our normal lives. If it’s a work day we go to work. If it’s a weekend it’s still one of two weekend days with the usual family and household responsibilities.
When people say they want more time, that tends to mean time outside the usual routines and restrictions of our lives — of needing to be at work by 8:00 a.m., which requires leaving 45 minutes prior to account for the presence of other earthlings on the road, of feeling exhausted by 10:30 p.m. because the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. This desire for more time is a desire for self-directed time when we have plenty of energy and nothing immediate weighing on us.
But, alas, life tends not to offer such time up in the form of an extra open day on the calendar. If you want that, you have to create it.
Fortunately, I do think it is possible to create such open days, even in the midst of a busy life. Maybe there’s a day when your office is closed but school or daycare is still open. If you’ve got some quantity of PTO, it might be possible to take a day away. Yes, work is crazy, but it will always expand to fill the available space. If you’re co-parenting with someone, you could decide to give each partner a weekend day off once or twice a year. The other parent takes the kids on a day trip, leaving the place blissfully silent.
I have experienced a few of those days. In Off the Clock I recount one such day — which wasn’t too long after the last leap day! — on a 2016 family trip to San Diego. My husband took the kids to Disneyland.** I went on a long and lovely run along the ocean, with no time pressure to come back. I walked to lunch — fish tacos. I read and then sat on the cliff to watch the sunset over the Pacific. The entire sunset. I felt…off the clock. It wasn’t additional time beyond the normal calendar, but it didn’t have to be.
Do you have big plans for leap day?
In other news: Kid #4 lost his first tooth!
Book news: Two good friends of this blog have books out this week and next. Camille Pagán’s novel of a woman who is done with people until people force themselves back into her life, This Won’t End Well, is, according to Library Journal, “witty and delightful.” Anne Bogel’s new book, Don’t Overthink It, is, in my blurbing words, “upbeat and encouraging” and shows readers how to “free up space for life’s adventures.”
*Except on centuries, but then added back every fourth century…And yes, I have used this blog title before, back in 2012.
**I took the kids to the San Diego Zoo on my day in this exchange.